What is the Kangaroo Island koala management project?
Natural Resources Kangaroo Island (KI) are working with the community to maintain and enhance the state of the environment in the region. The KI koala management project began in 1997, following an independent assessment of the increasing koala population on the island and its impact on native vegetation, particularly manna gums as these are a preferred food source for koalas. As a result of increasing koala numbers, manna gums have been lost across many parts of the island, putting enormous pressure on remaining manna gum habitat and causing other ecological impacts, such as increased erosion of stream banks. There is no evidence to suggest that koalas can self-regulate their numbers (as kangaroos do in response to environmental factors), which means they may eventually consume all the available food within an area, resulting in their own starvation.
What is being done?
The KI koala management project aims to reduce koala densities to a sustainable level to protect native vegetation. The project is based on:
- koala fertility control (sterilisation)
- restoration of koala breeding habitat (revegetation and protection of koala food trees)
- monitoring (koala density and tree condition).
Culling is not permitted as a management option in the National Koala Conservation and Management Strategy 2009–2014 and the SA Koala Conservation and Management Strategy 2016.
What has been achieved?
Since the project began, more than 12,700 koalas have been sterilised and about 3,800 of these translocated to their historic range in the South East of South Australia, making it one of the largest fertility control projects in the world. In addition, koala numbers and tree condition are monitored regularly to determine the effectiveness of the project and to inform management on priority areas for sterilisation.
The project has been effective in reducing koala numbers through non-lethal measures, resulting in an improvement in tree condition in areas where management has been undertaken. A koala census is undertaken every five years and in 2010 the estimated population was 13,000 koalas, down from 27,000 in 2001. However, the 2015 census results, which included a count in the blue gum plantations for the first time, showed that koala numbers have significantly increased since the previous census in 2010.
Despite the overall increase in koala numbers on the Island, koala census and tree condition monitoring indicates that densities have decreased and tree condition has improved in areas where management efforts have been focused.
A major review and reform process is now underway at the state level to address critical knowledge gaps and explore new strategies and technologies for managing overabundant koala populations. The new information being gathered on koalas is being used to help prioritise and implement actions to address koala overabundance in South Australia including Kangaroo Island.
Read the most recent koala census report.
To find out more, download the Kangaroo Island Koala Management Project Frequently Asked Questions.